Turkey, the most notorious country in the world in terms of jailing journalists, with 237 currently behind bars, has also come after foreign reporters in an ever-escalating crackdown on freedom of the press and freedom of expression.
Dozens of foreign reporters have faced administrative and legal action including false imprisonment by the government of President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan, which is bent on silencing all critical voices in Turkey including local, regional, national and even foreign ones.
A new report by the Stockholm Center for Freedom titled “The Clampdown on Foreign Journalists in Turkey” explains in detail how reporters from other countries face serious obstacles in Turkey that at times suggest a deliberate, systematic and calibrated policy by the government is, in fact, being implemented.
“Turkey has become a hellish place for honest reporters who want to pursue public interest stories because they are often portrayed by Turkish officials as villains who want to do harm to the country,” said Abdullah Bozkurt, president of the Stockholm Center for Freedom.
“For example, on several occasions Turkish Foreign Minister Mevlüt Çavuşoğlu claimed that foreign countries often use journalists as spies, drawing a bullseye on their backs,” he added.
Among the most common rights violations experienced by foreign journalists are detention and jailing, denial of residence permit extensions, cancelation of accreditation, deportation, a prohibition on entering Turkey, discrediting and finger-pointing.
Although convictions are rare, there are a few examples that are enough to send a chilling message. Around half a dozen foreign journalists have also died under suspicious circumstances in the last five years, although the masterminds behind these killings were never identified.
Due to increased obstacles to freedom of expression, a climate of fear and xenophobic attitudes that has often been fueled by the narrative of senior officials, foreign journalists in Turkey are having a difficult time doing their jobs. They are hard-pressed to communicate with news sources, with experts, academics and other sources who avoid talking to foreign reporters for fear of being labeled as traitors or collaborators.